I had a chance encounter on the train yesterday and ended up in a conversation with the chief writer of Rev; James Woods. It was such a pleasure to be able to tell him face to face some of the things I appreciated about the show. I asked him what hope there was of another series after this one and he said something pretty final happens in the last episode that would make that pretty difficult. So we should relish this television show which has been sold by the BBC to 140 different countries while it is on our TV screens for the next six weeks. (Rev kicks off on Monday night at 10.00pm on BBC2)
Here are Five things I really like about REV.
1. Laughing with Christians not at them
Rev is a very funny television show. It does a great job of poking fun at some of absurdities of the Christian life, but not in a sneering belittling way, but in a generous and warmhearted way. We develop great sympathy for the characters and their circumstances. Because of the quality of the research in the show – we can recognise the types of Christians depicted in the show whether its the HTB types or the Archdeacon or the new curate.
2. The challenges of Parish life
A vicar friend of mine who works as a parish priest in London is constantly telling me that his daily life feels like an episode of Rev. Watching Rev is quite a therapeutic experience for him. Many christian leaders not just anglican priests can relate to the stresses of caring for needy people who turn up at your door at all sorts of strange times, the pressure it puts your family under to be living in the goldfish bowl of church and community leadership.
3. Recognising the power of the Parish
When everyone else is leaving the inner city, the church is often the only institution that is still there. Many school teachers I know don’t want to live in the same area as the schools they are in, similarly many doctors and police officers. But most vicars are firmly connected with their parishes. Rev shows the power of presence, showing what it means to demonstrate hospitality to the stranger or the addict, what it means to visit the sick and the dying what it means to care for all those in need. It offers a countercultural picture of how to rebuild community in the inner city.
4. Olivia Coleman
She is the megastar of the show now thanks in no small part to Broadchurch. She is very impressive – I have watched the trailer for Mr Sloane so many times now I should be sick of it. But she pulls of a brilliant set piece put down with consummate skill. I am so pleased she has come back for the final series.
5. The Complexity of Faith
I love the inner dialogue that we are given that reveals the thought and prayer life of Rev Adam Smallbone. Its an excellent insight into the reality of the life of faith. Neither of the shows creators James Wood the writer nor Tom Hollander who plays the Rev would have claimed to have a clear cut faith when they started the programme. But Tom Hollander can testify to a deeper faith as a result of being on the show, as he confessed to the guardian:
Does he think his faith has changed since starting Rev? “Well, of course I’ve gone a lot to church recently, entirely for work reasons, but it has its effect. You can’t go into these places without something happening. Just the buildings as much as anything. And the yearning to believe…”
It was interesting talking to Wood about his dislike for overconfident super certain Christianity and I hope to be able to send him a copy of my new book Paradoxology which tackles exactly that issue. So I hope he uses the contact details I left with him.